OUR TURN: We can move on from grief
When you look up the word "grief," you see it means deep sorrow, especially caused by someone's death.
The families of the people who were tragically shot to death Sunday night in Las Vegas will undoubtedly feel that deep sorrow, pain, anger and heartbreak.
I cannot begin to understand what those families are going through or come close to knowing how they feel.
But I do know grief. I lost both my parents this year — my mom, Leona, on March 11 and my dad, Celestine, "Red," on July 3.
After my mom's death, in my grieving stupor, I signed up to receive a daily grief support email from the funeral home. At first, I didn't open them. It was a harsh reminder that I would no longer see my mom, hear her voice or hug her. She really was gone. Forever.
It was in June that I finally opened one of those emails.
The first four words struck me like a dagger through my heart — "Grief can destroy you..."
I am not sure I have read anything more true. I did feel like I was being destroyed, from the inside out.
The email also contained this advice: "Look back at your friendship, your love, and your caring for the one who has passed on. Celebrate what made it great. Share your stories with those who knew that person and are feeling the loss as well. Look for online forums as places to commiserate with others who are grieving. Taking active steps to cope with your sense of sadness will help you to heal and help others to feel less alone."
I didn't buy it. Sharing stories, although maybe helpful, also hurt. Like hell. I may have been smiling and laughing on the outside, but inside, my heart was shriveling up and felt like tiny pieces of it were breaking off every time I said her name.
The next few grief support emails were again instantly deleted.
Then, less than four months after losing my mom, my dad died. My world was shattered.
It took me a month to open another one of those emails. Again, the words stung.
They came from the book, "In Too Deep" by Jude Watson. "When you lose your parents, the sadness doesn't go away. It just changes. It hits you sideways sometimes instead of head-on."
The summary nailed it: "Your loss may make you feel out of control. That can lead to a downward spiral across all parts of your life. To help, find a way to feel like you are in charge of other aspects of your day ... Making decisions and acting on them will help you take control of your healing and your life."
I did feel like my life was out of control. To be honest, there are times it still feels that way. But I bought into this tip.
Making decisions, as small as they may be, helps. I finally put the funeral stuff — the cards, memorial books, leftover thank yous and programs — into one bag and put them in my basement, out of my sight, out of my mind. It hurt, yet felt good. I also put the photo albums away.
I started reading those emails, letting the words sink in. I understand that tears are not a sign of weakness or evidence that I won't get better.
Ignoring grief may make it grow until it is too tough to bear. Talking about it helps. It can hurt, like thousands of teeny tiny needles piercing holes through your heart, but talk it out. Share. Hug. Laugh. And yes, cry. It all helps.
Grief is universal, a feeling that will fade over time. Lots and lots of time.
One email quoted Elizabeth Gilbert from "Eat, Pray, Love" that I hope will help those dealing with loss — especially those who lost a loved one from Sunday's senseless shooting.
"When you are standing in that forest of sorrow, you cannot imagine that you could ever find your way to a better place. But if someone can assure you that they themselves have stood in that same place, and now have moved on, sometimes this will bring hope."
I have stood there. At times, I am still standing there. But slowly, I am moving on. And my hope is that they will, too.